International Competitions in Architecture
The proposed procedure will provide potentials for flexibility and imageability to generate new dynamic forms of images for San Lorenzo’s new facade, with added layers of history being superimposed, with fabric being opened and randomness being valued. Whilst streets are regarded as venues, San Lorenzo’s new Façade is considered unbounded, open, and transparent. However the experimental procedure will allow for (re)(de)construction of a new facade, disrupting its meaning, whilst identifying the relationship between cognitive imaging and virtual forms. There is a need to read deconstructively such internal struggle between deconstruction of institution of space and institutionalization of spatial deconstruction, a resistance that would provide more incentive for further deconstruction (Wigley 1995), ranging from visionary architecture (Thomsen 1994), to electronic agora and virtual spaces (Graham and Marvin 1996).
The current post modern (de(re)constructive) experimentation with San Lorenzo’s façade will deal with urban images, considered the natural extension of virtual metaphysical forms as mediatecture (Riewoldt 1997, Mitchell 1996) , and mediascape (Christensen 1993). Urban images or architecture of images (as coined by Bermudez 1995), employed in visualising a new Façade for San Lorenzo, will offer multiple and continuously changing interfaces that transcend the nature of physicality by offering built forms of multi-dimensional characters, with virtual layers. The immediateness and multiplicity of these (hyper) environments challenge the traditional concepts of presence, distance, and time, whilst delivering an architecture of singular simultaneity, that is an architectural version of Borges' non-place where anything and everything is (re)present(ed) at least in theory. Urban images can be seen as both the celebration and critique of the media/information society . By importing, sustaining, and 'splashing' virtuality (e.g. art work, cinema, daily news, environmental scenes, video-games, virtual worlds) onto the real world, urban images would emphasize the power of information and cyberspace over matter and reality , as well as recognize the difficulty that people find in realizing, believing, and visualizing the abstract and immaterial world shaping society's institutions and personal lives (Pile 1996).
Urban images are therefore the natural symbiotic result of the new material and information needs of our environments, with hybrid interface between electronic media (broadcast or wired) and built media (encoded in the urban environment). Although media may conjure up almost anything into presence, virtuality can only displace but not replace reality, whilst seeking to reaffirm the true meaning of being embodied. In turn this will invite a refocusing of spatial design, bringing together the material and the informational, the tectonic and the abstract, the real and the virtual.
To grasp the nature of post modern metamorphosis of San Lorenzo’s context, the proposed approach therefore conceptualizes different layers of events which constitute Florence’s spatial configuration. There is a need for reading and interpreting spatial and historical transformations. This will unravel the deliberately produced public images founded on material or symbolic backgrounds, depending on the history of the city and its future capacity to promote its public image . This could be symbolized by public spaces which are constructed and mediated, in discursive practices, in the continuity of the spatial perceptions, experiences and interpretations of everyday life. According to Levebvre ‘s (1991) trialectics of perceived, conceived and lived spaces, there is a need to examine contested spaces which are transformed by the changing cultural practices, with narrative forms (myths and rituals) influencing the architectonics of space.
The adopted conceptual approach nevertheless explores the possibility of re-mapping Brunelleschi’s San Lorenzo Church, through finding the flows of events, and through locating the hidden spaces in the "unconscious" of the city of Florence. Spaces emerge and disappear, they overlap and interpenetrate one another, with the virtual city being at once a transmutation of the known, whilst standing alongside and being interwoven into real urban life. However with information technology bringing various areas into proximity of one another, spaces constantly juxtapose themselves one against the other, similar to Lefebvre's (1991) image of interpenetrating spaces.
Urban experimentation however proposes tangible forms for a wider understanding of the space which mediates overlapping images, fields, networks (where built and unbuilt environments are revealed). The experiment(s) acknowledges the conflict between imagination and reality as a driving force for creating and structuring virtual spatial orders, thus operating on the boundaries where two worlds collide. This procedure aims at producing images of San Lorenzo which are never geometrical nor predictable, but are rather collections, aggregations, accumulations of patched-up, extendable, overlapping and developing forms. The task is to materialize spatial paradox to accentuate the experienced qualities of design of the built environment. There is an attempt to replace the neutral, homogenous conception of modernist space with the post modernist figuration of form as a theatrical construction that is highly orchestrated through relations and instructions, and subjected to functions of (trans)forming, (in)forming and (per)forming (Eisenman 1999).
Urban Disjunction- Collages and Fragments of Images
Harvey (1989) viewed collage/montage as the primary form of post modern discourse on spatiality, with the notion of the city as assemblage, bricolage, or pastiche, largely replacing that of the functional city of modernism (Rowe and Koetter, 1978). For architects and planners, this collage, consisting of space-time, dimensions, is no longer modeled after nature or the machine, but after cities of the past which Vidler has described as "the third typology" (Vidler 1978, cited in Ellin 1996).
Additionally, the text and collage metaphors have been central to the re-conception of culture (Geertz 1964, 1980), asserting that the world is constituted symbolically, that people organize various aspects of their lives into a coherent assemblage through the medium of culture. More recently, Boyer (1994) attempts to read the city as a "text", following Barthes' (1976 cited in Harvey 1989) earlier proposition that 'the city is a discourse and this discourse is truly a language', and that 'architecture of signifiers with no signifieds, is considered a pure play of language'. Accordingly, with Derrida's(1976) work modeled after literary criticism with the (double) reading of the text and interpreting the meaning of culture, there is a need to read the city ’text’ in terms of the rhythmic occurrence of, events, which (dis)connect open public spaces with each other.
The current de (re) constructive conception proposes a (hypothological) façade for San Lorenzo as a conflation of existing images which includes built and unbuilt elements, as influenced by history, human experience and contemporary culture, and as mapped into fictional terrain of perceptive imagery and virtual reality. The re(de) constructed façade examines the metaphors of space and being as manifest in the rhetoric of virtuality and materializes in real environments
This stage of the experiment pulls together a spatial narration evoking journeys to other cities, and following on with Benjamin's (1985) disconnected travel tales. By placing these 'postcards from another place' side by side, the experiment is also alluding to, or digging into, the nature of postmodernity and spatiality. The juxtapositioning of these fragments is similar to ancient statues and modern monuments, where relics take on new meanings in the postmodern city. Such juxtapositions are a montage of urban images, meant to be read simultaneously, revealing the discontinuous nature of space, with its souvenirs and its myriad connections to other places. The experiment aims at placing these images together, at making the connection between them, and at establishing a new relationship which changes their meanings. In accordance with Benjamin (1985), the experiment attempts to set in motion a chain of thoughts that would recuperate the ruins and fragments of postmodernity in Florence, building up from the fragments, a different picture of the city , through the flow and distribution of images as being reassembled into San Lorenzo’s new Façade.
Metaphors of Urban Installations and Iconography
Urban interfaces are introduced, including built environment and (conceptual) image diagrams as inserted within or superimposed on San Lorenzo’s hypothological façade . The experiment then casts the experiential tools to explore San Lorenzo as an individual construct (flaneur), considering the complex centripetal-centrifugal space which everybody experiences physically and perceptually. One looks at space of the flaneur, as being subjected to contrasts of experience and scale, with these installations regarded as urban icons. They respond to events and initiatives to formulate hyper-spatial conditions which are multi-dimensional , multi-physical, flipping and compressing both virtual and real experiences in Florence. Urban installations explore new possibilities of urban life and human experience, weaving into existing fabric of Florence and becoming a hidden city of entirely unknown purpose or meaning. Uncertainty however prevails as new postmodern spatiality emerges using a series of collage- images which investigate the free-space construction of the new –facade through the meeting of both virtual and real worlds.
Furthermore the two stages of the experiment intended to unsettle ‘memory and context’ by rejecting both ‘contextualist’ and ‘continualist’ approaches, and favouring conflict over synthesis, fragmentation over unity, madness and play over careful management. The experiment opens into prior images and earlier signs, representing a different and autonomous system (a text), presenting ‘montage’, which had been applied in Tschumi's (1988a,b) Parc de La Villette and developed as part of film technique by Eisenstein . In 'montage' independent fragments are juxtaposed thus permitting ‘a multiplicity of combinations’, together with repetitions, substitutions, and insertions. Nevertheless, the experiment indicates that San Lorenzo’s images have changed by the multiplication of screens which offer an active of grasping hold of the city of Florence.
According to Ellin (1996), a new urbanity, in the information age, is emerging where boundaries between reality and virtuality are blurring, nothing prevailing but discourses, texts, language games, images. Therefore urban designers' task has shifted, becoming the collection and assembling of elements in Foucault's museum of knowledge, with emphasis on creating legible cities and a sense of place. Boyer (1994) has pointed out that the postmodern aesthetic claimed to return to narrative forms, searching for an architectural language that communicates with the public, that manipulates simple combinations and patterns that are part of our collective memory . With the text remaining central, our environments grow increasingly hyper-real, with people generally exchanging their role as users and becoming readers (Bergum, 1990).
How, then, might we consider the urban life of screens, once we no longer consider screens to be passive reflections of some more real reality ?
These screens are seen as indices of possibility, with their proliferation enriching our imaginative experience of San Lorenzo, by producing psychic echoes and reverberations that enliven the senses. In actor-network theory, screens might be re-figured as nodes in expanded social networks, not just feeding the psychical world but having their own non-organic forms of existence. Deleuze's (1997) screens become a means of expressing affects of the city by placing images together, mirroring the way in which the city juxtaposes many different possibilities, emotions, sensations, and perceptions. They make these qualities into dialectical forces which are actualized in determinate space-times, geographical and historical milieus, and individual people's lives (Smith, 1992). Media culture has put people into a space of 'total flow', with the juxtapositioning of their mental images calling to attention a line of conflict (Jameson 1991). This is concerned with the nature of those other (unconscious) spaces, which have become invisible whilst attempting to map themselves into entirely different worlds.
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